Whatever Comes

Tuesday, September 12, 2017, 1:10 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Lord, Move Me.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Philippians 4:4-13 (NASB).

Always Rejoice (vv. 4-7)

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

As I read this passage of scripture this morning, my heart goes out to all those in the USA who have these past few days suffered either death of a loved one or destruction to property as a result of high winds, rain and flooding in Florida, South Carolina and Georgia, in particular. My heart also goes out to all people of any country who were in the path of this destruction, and who have suffered loss of loved ones and/or personal property, and who are without electric power, water, shelter and life’s necessities. You are in my thoughts and in my prayers at this time.

For those, in particular, who are going through such times of suffering, these words in this passage of scripture may be a “hard pill to swallow,” and yet this must be our attitude if we are to survive the onslaughts of pain and suffering which this life on this earth will sometimes deliver to us. It will only make matters worse if all we do is gripe and complain about our lot in life. Plus, if we decide to grumble and/or to get angry over our circumstances, it reveals lack of faith in God and in his sovereignty over our lives now existing within our hearts. For, whatever comes our way, God is still in control. And, none of this has caught him by surprise. So, we must yield to his control.

When we choose to rejoice in our circumstances, no matter what comes our way, the peace of God sweeps over us like a flood. Yet, it isn’t as though we don’t cry, or that these trials are not difficult for us. They are! The Apostle Paul expressed that often in his letters to the churches. Yet, God allowed us to go through these trials for a reason, so we need him to let him teach us what we need to learn through our times of difficulty. Sometimes he allows us to go through hardships because we have wandered from the faith, and we need to be brought back to God in purity of heart, and other times it is for our spiritual maturity, to learn perseverance, to share in God’s holiness, and that our lives might yield the peaceful fruit of God’s righteousness.

Dwell on These (vv. 8-9)

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

At all times, we should think (dwell) on what is pure, righteous, honorable, worthy of praise and true. But, not all that is true is worthy to dwell on, for we should not dwell on what is unrighteous, dishonorable or impure, even though it may be true. We should fill our minds with truth, though, and not with lies, deceptions, and manipulations. In fact, how we think or what we think on has a lot to do with what we fill our minds with day in and day out. So, if we are going to think pure thoughts, for example, we need to not take into our minds what is impure, especially willfully, and so to be entertained.

I live in the USA, so this is what I know, so I can’t speak for other countries and what the people there do, because I am not familiar with other countries. I have never even been outside the USA, not even to Canada. But, in America, I know that the vast majority of homes have televisions, and perhaps more than one TV, and it seems most Americans also have home computers, smart phones and/or tablets (like an I Pad). So, we are inundated with technology and all that that technology has to offer us in the way of bringing the world into our lives and into our homes.

There have been good things that have come from all this technology, such as the gospel of Jesus Christ has been able to go throughout most of the world via TV and the internet. Yet, TV and the internet has also been the downfall of many people professing faith in Jesus Christ. Many Christians take in daily doses of immorality, sexual perversion, lies, deceptions, manipulations, cheating, murders, thefts, and the like, and all in the name of entertainment, and they have become desensitized to all the evil contained within, as they make compromise after compromise with the world of sin. This should not be! So, we need to test everything we take into our minds, and what we put before our eyes, against Philippians 4:8-9, and then cut out of our lives what is leading us to think and to do what is sinful.

Instead of practicing sin, or being entertained by others’ sins, we need to practice what is holy, righteous and pure. And, we ought to do what God’s Word says, and not just read it and then walk away and forget what we read. And, we need to be holy, separate (unlike, different) from the world, because we are being made into the image of Christ. Amen!

Content in Whatever (vv. 10-13)

But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Lately, in my devotions with my Lord, the Lord has been impressing on my heart to gladly forfeit all of earth’s treasures so that Jesus’ perfect likeness I would bear (“Oh, To Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer”), and to rather have Jesus than silver or gold, etc. I believe he has been preparing my heart for a time when we will not have much in the way of material wealth on this earth, but we will be rich in faith. And, we may be getting much closer to that time here in America, as we experience more and more in the way of destruction of property and loss of fortune, but all for the glory of God, that he may be our ONLY GOD and LORD. So, I must hold lightly the things of this life, and be willing to walk away from them all, at any time, in order to follow Jesus with my life in service to him and to his will for my life.

The point of all this, I believe, is that we learn to be content in whatever circumstances God places us, not that we have to enjoy our trials and tribulations, but that we are to be resolved to rejoice in the Lord despite our circumstances, and to praise him in good times and in bad times, too. We need to be ok in good times and in bad, and with sufficient accommodations, and with less than to be desired shelter, food, and circumstances, too. And, we must rejoice in the Lord through it all, give him all the praise and glory, and submit our lives over to him for him to accomplish his will and his purposes in our lives through it all. And, he will give us all we need to survive and to thrive, by his grace, and in his strength and power.

Lord, Move Me / An Original Work / October 16, 2011

Be my desire, my heart set on fire,
Lord, move me to worship You only, I pray.
Fill with Your Spirit, my heart overflow.
Lord, may I long for You; Your word to know.
Teach me to walk with You, Lord, in Your power,
And may I serve You, Lord, right now in this hour.

Lord, how I want to obey You forever.
Help me to hear You, Lord, so I will not stray.
Teach me to love You; adore You always.
Envelope me, Lord, with Your grace today.
Meet me in my need, and show me Your mercy.
Forgive me for all things, as I humbly pray.

Counsel me, lead me, direct me, and guide me,
So I follow You, Lord, where’er You lead now.
I love to hear You speak Your words to me.
I am so grateful that You set me free.
Wash me, and cleanse me, and make me like You, Lord,
And I will live with You for eternity.

 

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Of Faith

Thursday, July 13, 2017, 4:11 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “His Tender Mercies.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read several scriptures (in the ESV) on the subject of faith.

Be Not Anxious (Matthew 6:25-34)

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

I think it is human nature to want to know the end from the beginning of a situation before we will venture into that area. It can be, in the natural, a fearful thing to step out into the unknown, not knowing what lies ahead or how things are going to come together. Yet, when we walk by faith, we learn to trust the Lord in all things, and we believe him to work it all out according to his plans and his purposes.

In the natural, so many things could go wrong, and our plans could fall apart. But, when we are being led by the Lord, and he is the one directing our paths, he will go before us, and he will prepare the way for us. This is not saying we will never face obstacles, but that God is completely sovereign (in control), and that he will work all things out for the good of those who love him; who have been called according to his purposes.

So, we learn to trust him, and to rest in him, and to believe him to supply all that we need for what he has called us to do. And, so we inquire of him to know what we are to do, where we are to go, and what we are to say. We do what he says, and then we leave the results in his hands. We follow him and his lead in our lives, and we trust him, too, with the people in our lives.

Of Little Faith (Matthew 8:23-27)

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

When we follow the Lord in obedience, it does not mean it will always be “smooth sailing.” Sometimes we will face storms, i.e. difficult and troubling situations which shake us, and which may be life threatening, as well. And, it may seem to us that God is asleep on the job, and that he is not paying attention to what is going on in our lives. But, he is still sovereign (in control), and he has it handled. Nothing escapes his notice. He has a plan and a purpose for it all, and he will see us through any and every situation.

So, we should not let the storms of life unsettle us or to make us feel as though there is no recourse or that there is no hope. We must be steadfast in hope and in faith no matter our circumstances. Walking by faith often means that we don’t know what lies before us, and how things are all going to work out. But, when we know God is in it, we have to know that he will make a way where there seems to be no way.

Why Do You Doubt? (Matthew 14:22-33)

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Sometimes, when things get particularly bad, which they will sometimes, we lose sight of Jesus and we get lost in the details of what we are going through. And, that is when we begin to fear and to fret. And, that is because we are looking at the circumstances and we are focusing on them rather than focusing on the God who is sovereign (in control) over our circumstances. So, we may begin to listen to the lies of Satan, instead, and begin to think that God can do nothing about what we are going through.

And, even though Jesus is right there with us in our circumstances, we may not recognize him, and so our hearts may begin to sink. And, when we cry out to him, he reveals himself to us, and he shows us how he is there. Sometimes it isn’t just that he is there with us through our trials, though, but that he is the one initiating the trials in our lives, because he has a plan and a purpose for them to mature us, to get us to rely on him and not on ourselves, and to teach us patience and endurance.

We might, at times, step out in faith, and be walking with the Lord in obedience, and then along the way get sidetracked by troubles or hardships and forget that our Lord is in control. And, then we begin to drown in our difficult circumstances because we took our eyes off Jesus. So, we need to refocus our attention on Jesus, be renewed in our faith, and keep going forward, even when we don’t know what lies ahead. We must walk by faith and not by sight, believing God to do his work in our lives, and in the lives of those we love, even if we don’t see yet what has been promised.

His Tender Mercies / An Original Work / January 26, 2014

Fear not! I’m with you.
Be not dismayed!
God watches o’er you.
Trust Him today.
He’ll lead and guide you;
Give you His aid.
He’ll love and keep you
With Him always.

Walk in His footsteps.
He’ll lead the way.
Trust in His love;
Believe that He cares.
He will not leave you.
Faithful He’ll be.
His tender mercies
Now you will see.

Fellowship with Him
Throughout the day.
Tell Him your heartaches.
He’ll heal always.
Rest in His comfort.
He is your friend.
Your faith He’ll strengthen,
True to the end.

Testing Your Faith

Sunday, June 4, 2017, 8:15 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “When Pretty Things Get Broken.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read James 1 (select vv. ESV).

Various Trials (vv. 2-4)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

What is joy? Joy is “grace recognized,” i.e. “the awareness of God’s grace, his favor” (biblehub.com). Jesus, for the joy set before him, “endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). What was the joy set before him? His grace, which he was to extend to all the world via his death on a cross for our sins, and via his resurrection from the dead. It was the knowledge that his death and resurrection would mean life everlasting, and freedom from slavery to sin, to everyone who trusted in him as Lord, and as Savior of their lives.

So, can we be joyful and sad at the same time? Yes, I believe we can, because joy is not dependent on our circumstances. It is not conditional to our human emotions. Even in times of severe trial and great sadness, we can prayerfully and thankfully be appreciative of God’s grace to us, in its various forms, calling on him to help us in our time of need, even with tears streaming down our cheeks. And, that can be joy, because it focuses on Jesus, who is our compassionate and merciful high priest. So, we should “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb. 12:3). We need to just rest in him.

Yet, what does it mean to count it all joy when we go through trials? It means to recognize God’s grace in our lives, i.e. that he is doing things in and through us way beyond what we could even imagine. It means trusting in his sovereignty over our lives, believing that, “in all things, he works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Ro. 8:28). Yet, “good” is not necessarily what we want or desire, but it is what God knows is best for us, i.e. what we truly need for us to mature in our faith, and to have steadfastness (persistence) of spirit, and for us to be Christ-like in heart, mind, attitude, faith, word and in action. So, we need to believe him, submit to his Lordship over our lives, and trust him to work it all out according to his plans and purposes, and for his glory.

Need Wisdom? (vv. 5-8)

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

When we go through difficulties and trials, we definitely need wisdom to know how to respond with grace, and to not let our circumstances or what others do or say to “ruffle our feathers,” i.e. “to cause confusion, agitation, irritation or annoyance” (yourdictionary.com). There are probably always going to be people in our lives who will try to “get our goat,” i.e. who will attempt to irritate us. But, we can’t let them. We need to rise above these situations, by the grace of God, and by exercising godly wisdom. We must put on the armor of God (Eph. 6:10-20), as well, in order to fight off the temptation to give way to our circumstances and to not trust our Lord.

Yet, when we pray for wisdom to know how to respond with grace and godliness to difficult trials, and to people who want nothing more than to trip us up, and God shows us what to do, then we need to apply to our lives what he shows us, otherwise it was pointless to even ask him.

Remain Steadfast (vv. 12-15)

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Some days are better than others. Some days we feel stronger, and other days we feel weak emotionally or physically, and it is more difficult during those times when the trials come. Yet, we don’t endure and persevere in our own strength or willpower. The steadfastness of spirit doesn’t come from within our own flesh. It is supernatural. And, it comes as we yield to our God, cry out to him in our suffering, and trust him to work in and through our lives for his purposes and for his glory. It comes when we learn to rest in him, and we don’t feel like we have to make things happen ourselves, and when we lean on him for understanding and trust in him for his strength.

When we are tempted to give in, give up, blow up, or clam up, that doesn’t come from God. Now, there will be times when God will tell us to be silent, but that will not be all the time, for he has given us mouths to sing his praises, to proclaim his excellencies, to share his gospel, and to call people to repentance and to faith in Jesus Christ. It is Satan who wants to silence us, and to get us to give up, and to yield to pressure to compromise our faith so that people will like us, and so we won’t face persecution. Yet, Jesus said if we are ashamed of him and his gospel, he will be ashamed of us (Mk. 8:38). The devil will also send people along in our lives to try to trip us up, and to try to get us to blow it. We can’t give in to them for a second!

Yet, the devil is not the only force in our lives which tempts us to sin against God. We can be lured and enticed by our own sinful desires. For example, we may be tempted to compromise our faith, or to not speak to people about Jesus, or to dilute the gospel, because we want to be liked by others, and not hated. And, when the Spirit within us prompts us that we need to speak, and not keep silent, or he impresses on our hearts that we need to say something to someone, and we know we will be hated and rejected, we may be tempted to rationalize our way out of it. This is because we know it will mean, not only that this particular person is going to now reject us, but that they are probably going to convince many others to hate us, too. Yet, we have to obey God, even if it costs us our reputations or our very lives.

When Pretty Things Get Broken
By Joni Eareckson Tada

I have a piece of China, a pretty porcelain vase –
It holds such lovely flowers; captures everybody’s gaze.
But fragile things do slip and fall, as everybody knows.
And when my vase came crashing down, those tears began to flow.

My life was just like China, a lovely thing to me;
Full of porcelain promises of all that I might be.
But fragile things do slip and fall, as everybody knows.
And when my life came crashing down, those tears began to flow.

Now Jesus is no porcelain Prince. His promises won’t break.
His holy word holds fast and sure. His love, no one can shake.
So, if your life is shattered by sorrow, pain, or sin –
His healing love will reach right down and make you whole again.

Now don’t we all cry when pretty things get broken?
Don’t we all sigh at such an awful loss?
But Jesus will dry your tears, as He has spoken;
‘Cause He was the one broken on the cross.

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